“I stuck my head out the window this morning and spring kissed me bang in the face.” – Langston Hughes

“Pura Vida“, she smiled as she handed me a cup of savory rich Costa Rican coffee. “Gracias” I replied playfully, letting my rusty Spanish bounce off of my tongue. We had just arrived at our hotel in Manuel Antonio, and would be spending an entire week in Costa Rica for our family Spring vacation. When the waitress left, my twelve-year-old son who had just started learning Spanish at school asked me what “pura vida” meant. I told him that it was not exactly easy to translate. Instead, it was something that would have to be experienced in order to fully comprehend its meaning. He shrugged his shoulders at my response, looking a little bit miffed. Over the course of the next nine days he would certainly learn, I assured him. He would just have to be patient.

We would see nature like never before – such as sloths, monkeys, rainbow-colored grasshoppers, venomous snakes, and lots of beautiful birds. We would play in the waves of the ocean at sunset, walk high above the jungle on suspension bridges, zip-line above the trees, canyon down waterfalls, ride inner tubes down the rapids of a river, and horseback ride below a volcano. We would stay way up at the top of a mountain at a typical Costa Rican farm where we would be served hot rice and beans with friend plantains. We would constantly have to pinch ourselves that we were in a place so utterly beautiful and serene. Yes, we would experience Costa Rica’s pura vida in a little over a week.

If there are two words that sum up Costa Rica, it is “Pura Vida”. Literally translated as “Pure Life”, Pura Vida means much more than its basic definition. The saying can be used as simply as  “you’re welcome” or “hello”. Or even as a statement or a response to “how are you”. Yet in my opinion, Pura Vida symbolizes an entire way of life that Ticos (the nickname for Costa Ricans) enjoy. A life filled with appreciation, love and gratitude for the beauty of their amazing surroundings and nature. An energy and joy of simply being alive.

Gifted with some of the greatest biodiversity of flora and fauna on earth, there is no better place to experience pura vida than in Costa Rica. In her canopies of rainforest filled with life and her mystical volcanoes peeking out of the clouds. In her majestic sunrises and sunsets painting the sky in hues of pink, purple, orange and red. In her endless species of flowers delighting the eyes, the roar of the howler monkeys at the first sign of dawn or a pair of scarlet macaws flying directly overhead. There is no place on earth where one feels more of the pure beauty of life than in Costa Rica.

Here is my window into the meaning of pura vida….

Tulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa RicaTulemar Vacation Rentals, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Park Costa RicaManuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio Park Costa Rica

“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous” – Aristotle  

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa RicaManuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

A three-Toed Sloth hanging out high up in the trees.

“Nature seems to have implanted gratitude in all living creatures”. – Samuel Johnson  

El Castillo, Arenal, Costa Rica

Lake Arenal beckons

Parrot Hill Ranch, El Castillo, Arenal, Costa Rica

Parrot Hill Ranch, El Castillo, Arenal, Costa Rica

Parrot Hill Ranch, El Castillo, Arenal, Costa Rica

Mistical Arenal Hanging Bridges Park, Costa Rica

The spectacular Arenal Volcano

By the end of the trip, my son looked at me with his happy-go-lucky, adolescent face and told me he finally understood what pura vida meant. It meant to enjoy the beauty of life and all it has to offer. To be thankful, happy and live in the moment of each and every day. I certainly hope we were able to bring a little pura vida back with us to Minnesota.

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Windows.


    1. Me too Lulu. I feel like I need some calming Pura Vida right now. The world feels like such a mess.

    1. Glad you enjoyed Janet. Yes, I loved it there too. I would love to go back as well. Such a beautiful place.

  1. Don’t we all need a bit of Pura Vida feeling every once in a while?! It’s a great approach to life, but I wonder if we overly busy types can get it right for more than a short time? I strive to have this gratefulness and joie de vivre each day, but I need to work harder at it (kind of a contradiction in itself, right?). Once again, it was a pleasure to read about your family’s trip to Costa Rica; you and your kids got out of that trip what we did with our young children many years ago. It really is a beautiful place in every way.

    1. yes me too Lexi. Life is just so busy and can be so overwhelming as well. I struggle too. I try to practice mindfulness and enjoy nature and the great outdoors. Are you back yet from your European adventure?

      1. Yes, back for a few days now and loved the trip so much I’ve already written two posts! That’s quick for me! Enjoy your fall!

      2. Oh I read your posts and they are awesome! What a trip you had. I love driving trips in Europe. Everything is so much closer together so it is easier for me as opposed to driving here in the big spread out US. Looking forward to your next posts. How is Houston by the way? The paper never has any updates or news on the flooding. They always move on to the next big news story so curious what the situation is.

      3. For those who got nailed, things are still very tough. On the surface and for us, much seems to be back to normal, but there are little glitches like no recycling and yard waste pickup for the foreseeable future (all trucks are dealing with storm and damaged house debris) and things like that. Houston has been very resilient overall!

  2. Oh, Nicole, the last paragraph with your son experiencing and understanding “Pura Vida” just makes the whole trip much richer! Your images literally took my breath away. I’d love to get back there someday to experience that natural beauty again.

    1. Thanks Jane! So glad you liked the post. Yes Costa Rica is a pretty spectacular place. I feel so alive there. I can see myself spending more time there down the toad.

    1. Wonderful Tina. It is one of my favorite places because of its natural wonders and beauty. It is very freeing there.

  3. Pure life, pure beauty. You were right Nicole, your son really did experience that for himself. What an extraordinary adventure you all had. Wonderful.

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